DALLAS: The media relations story behind the separation of conjoined Egyptian twins Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim is a tale of two hospitals.
Dr. Kenneth Salyer's World Craniofacial Foundation first brought the twins to Texas Hospital for Children at Medical City in June 2002. That hospital coordinated in-patient and out- patient treatment until the separation surgery earlier this month. The operation took place at Children's Medical Center.
"There was a lot of interest well before the children actually came here," said Susan McBee, media/PR coordinator at Medical City. The twins were celebrities in their native country, so their arrival brought national and international media attention to the Dallas medical community.
During their long stay in Dallas, McBee's staff arranged for individual reporters to spend days with the boys or accompany them on outings.
One of McBee's goals was to communicate the difficult lives that conjoined twins live. She gave a Dallas Morning News reporter open access to the family for weeks, which resulted in a 12-page special section. "We were trying to explain the terrible dilemma of these children," said McBee. "What happens if they don't have the surgery and are forced to live this kind of life?"
At Medical City, after PR was handed off to Children's, communications pros struggled to convince doctors to talk to reporters. "They didn't realize what all the fuss was about," McBee said.
Some of the reporters wept when the successful separation was announced, she added.
An office building near Children's donated space for media facilities. The hospital conducted daily press briefings the week of the surgery. As the twins continued to improve, they switched to simply updating a special website section on a regular basis.
The recovering twins, and the responsibility for shepherding reporters, will soon shift back to Medical City.